FERONIA Receptor Kinase at the Crossroads of Hormone Signaling and Stress Responses.
Cell elongation in plants is controlled by environmental cues such as light and internal growth regulators including plant steroid hormones, brassinosteroids (BRs). In this study, we found that 3 related receptor-like kinases (RLKs), HERCULES1, THESEUS1, and FERONIA, are transcriptionally induced by BRs and are down-regulated in the loss-of-function BR mutant bri1 and up-regulated in the constitutive BR-response mutant bes1-D. These RLKs belong to the CrRLK family that has 17 members in Arabidopsis. We hypothesize that these RLKs are involved in BR-regulated processes. Although 2 of the RLKs were recently found to mediate male-female interaction during pollen tube reception (FERONIA) and to sense cell wall integrity (THESEUS1), our genetic studies demonstrated that they are required for cell elongation during vegetative growth as herk1 the1 double and fer RNAi mutants displayed striking dwarf phenotypes. The herk1 the1 double mutant enhances the dwarf phenotype of bri1 and partially suppresses bes1-D phenotype, supporting a role of HERK1/THE1 in BR-mediated cell elongation. Microarray experiments demonstrated that these RLKs control the expression of a unique set of genes including those implicated in cell elongation and 16% of the genes affected in herk1 the1 are regulated by BRs. Our results, therefore, identify a previously unknown pathway that functions cooperatively with, but largely independent of the BR pathway to regulate cell elongation. The work establishes a platform to identify other signaling components in this important pathway for plant growth and provides a paradigm to study the coordination of independent pathways in the regulation of a common biological process.